NJ Department of Health holds public hearing on Bayonne Medical Center

Most members of the public spoke in favor of the transaction to transfer ownership of hospital operations

CarePoint Health was lauded by supporters at a New Jersey Department of Health hearing in Bayonne on Dec. 14.

The public hearing was in regards to a proposed transfer of approximately 39.1 percent of ownership of hospital operations from CarePoint Health to BMC Hospital, LLC, their chosen successor. BMC Hospital, LLC already owns approximately 9.9 percent. CarePoint is seeking DOH approval for a certificate of need to transfer said ownership stake from its affiliate operating company, IJKG Opco. BMC Hospital, LLC, made up of investors from surgery center chain Surgicore, bought the initial approximately 9.9 percent for $1 million and seek to purchase the additional ownership stake for $4 million.

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CarePoint has been selling its assets, including Bayonne Medical Center. In November of 2019, Avery Eisenreich, owner of nursing home operator Alaris Health, purchased the property, including the grounds and building, of Bayonne Medical Center.

CarePoint has been searching for an operator for the hospital ever since, signing an agreement in 2020 with BMC Hospital LLC to operate Bayonne Medical Center. Meanwhile, Hudson Regional Hospital in Secaucus purchased the property of Bayonne Medical Center from Eisenreich for $76 million.

Since the sale has closed, Hudson Regional has made clear its intention to operate the hospital, not BMC Hospital LLC. This has sparked a war between the two entities over who will operate the hospital.

Second public hearing

Officials convened a public hearing, the second time residents have had the opportunity to voice their opinion on the matter. The meeting was held at the Second Floor Board Room at the Bayonne Public Library at 697 Avenue C. Members of the public could attend in person or via Microsoft Teams, or over the phone.

The officials from the Department of Health attended the meeting remotely, and heard speakers one at at time in a room separate from where members of the public were gathered in the library. The Bayonne Community News dialed in to the meeting, which featured doctors, former patients and top executives from CarePoint and BMC Hospital, LLC speaking in support of the transaction.

The first public hearing on the hospital saga was during the May meeting of the Bayonne City Council, during which the council heard public comment on ordinances that would condemn the property through eminent domain from current landowner Hudson Regional Hospital to allow BMC Hospital, LLC to eventually both own and operate the facility.

During that hearing, members of the public and residents on both sides came out to speak highly of their side and condemn the other. This time, the those who spoke were resoundingly in favor of the transaction between CarePoint and BMC Hospital, LLC. Much like last time however, much of the comment was based on personal anecdotes of how the hospital saved their lives.

In support of CarePoint

Dr. Gregg Rock, one of the four principal owners of BMC Hospital, LLC, outlined the operator’s recent activity at Bayonne Medical Center since it first acquired a percentage of ownership earlier this year.

“In March 2020, BMC Hospital, LLC was vetted and signed a letter of intent with CarePoint to ultimately take over the operations of Bayonne Medical Center,” Rock said. “Our goal was to expand services, strengthen its financial picture, and solidify its position as an acute critical-care facility in Hudson County now, and well into the future. BMC Hospital LLC has spent the last 18 months integrating into the community, honoring and supporting the men and women that deliver care at the old Medical Center, and beginning the process of expanding services and enhancing operation. We have invested in this institution because we know how critical it is to the city and county, and our number one priority is to continue serving this community and providing our patients with quality care they depend on.”

Rock, like many people present in support of BMC Hospital, LLC, touted the hospital staff’s perseverance through the pandemic, highlighted BMC Hospital, LLC’s bond he said they’ve developed with the community, and questioned Hudson Regional Hospital’s intentions.

“The BMC principals do not own any additional hospitals in the surrounding areas that poses to distract or take away focus from Bayonn-ians, such as transferring patients to another nearby mutually owned hospital to save on costs on the redundancy of services. Our geographic location being a peninsula with basically an island mentality, it requires one stop medical shopping when it comes to timely diagnosing, treatment and if necessary, admission.

“In conclusion, for the past COVID written 18 months, we have watched people walk through the doors of Bayonne Medical Center and have many different needs, and our staff is always ready. Are doctors and nurses work tirelessly and they sacrificed willingly. The Bayonne hospital is a center for medical innovations and a cornerstone of this community that embodies the heart and soul of residents. And although we may not always be able to cure, we can heal a patient’s spirit with compassion and kindness, regardless of who they are or where they come from, or even if they don’t have the funds to pay for the needed health care.”

The other side

Only two members of the public spoke against the transaction, an attorney on behalf of Hudson Regional Hospital and Bayonne City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski, also newly announced mayoral candidate. Ashe-Nadrowski voiced concerns brought to her by the public about the transaction, including the timing during the holidays, whether it would affect CarePoint’s newly announced non-profit status, and whether or not CarePoint gives control of the operations at Bayonne Medical Center to BMC Hospital, LLC through its management agreement.

“It really doesn’t matter to me who runs the hospital as long as we save it and the taxpayers are not left holding the bag,” said Ashe-Nadrowski, having called attention to the arguably not-well advertised meeting on the week prior. “I do want to call on the Department of Health to be more active in this process. It seems like the only guys who benefit from this, profits are the owners of CarePoint. They bought the hospital for close to nothing. They sold the land for $50 million then they sucked out over $160 million of the operations. It made it the most expensive hospital in the country. And now they’re allowed to sell it for a few more million. The reality is that for the last two years, Bayonne has been watching lawsuit after lawsuit with this hospital. But in the end, the CarePoint owners get wealthier. We need your help.”

Hudson Regional Hospital continues to approach the situation from a legal standpoint, petitioning the DOH to stay the application for the certificate of need until the active litigation is resolved. In a statement, Hudson Regional Spokesperson Ron Simoncini also pointed to CarePoint’s transition to a non-profit as conflicting with the application.

“So far, we have prevailed or are waiting to prevail in all matters related to this sort of activity by BMC/SurgiCore/CarePoint,” Simoncini said. “These recent activities represent a last-ditch effort to protect a deal that has very little to offer the public, and while we are convinced that the arguments favor us on the merits and established law and procedure, but it remains puzzling as to why public officials are not only not speaking out…they are empathetic to a people who have only caused them pain before.”

More meetings ahead

Mayor James Davis was not present, but did submit written comment to be entered into the record in favor of BMC Hospital LLC and the transaction with CarePoint and its affiliate.

Another meeting on the matter is slated for Jan. 6, officials announced at the end of the meeting. The next day, on Dec. 15, CarePoint was slated to have a virtual town hall with the public over the phone or online. But after a half hour of nothing on Microsoft Teams, that meeting appeared to be a bust.

Meanwhile, like clockwork, the city council has voted to postpone the two eminent domain ordinances, opting to wait for the Local Finance Board to make a determination. On the other hand, the Local Finance Board told the BCN that it is waiting on the applicant including the city and county.

Despite increasing involvement by officials in recent months, who will prevail as the operator of the hospital remains unclear.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com. 

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